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Behind the Wheel of Mercedes-Benz’s New E-Class and CLE Coupé

We experience the luxury and innovation of Mercedes-Benz’s latest masterpieces in the idyllic coastal setting of KwaZulu-Natal

By Edward Moleke Makwana

While the world was witnessing the inauguration of the President of the Republic of South Africa, I found myself in the warm and picturesque coastal region of KwaZulu-Natal, attending the media launch of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class and CLE Coupé.

The serene beauty of the Indian Ocean served as the perfect backdrop for unveiling these stunning new additions to the Mercedes-Benz lineup, highlighting the brand’s blend of luxury and innovation. As the sun cast its golden hue over the coastline, the elegant lines and advanced features of the E-Class and CLE Coupé were revealed at the impressive Mercedes-Benz Umhlanga dealership, heralding a new era of automotive excellence.

Our journey began from the Umhlanga dealership, heading to the South Coast with a coffee stop at The Beach Cafe on Pennington Beach, and culminated in a delightful lunch at the Italian restaurant Trattoria La Terrazza in Southbroom.

Before our test drives, Mark Raine, Co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa, introduced the new models, particularly the CLE Coupé, before handing over the keys to eager motoring journalists.

The CLE Coupé

The CLE Coupé is essentially a merger of the old C-Class and E-Class Coupes, representing a streamlined approach in Mercedes-Benz’s product lineup.

“The new CLE Coupé perfectly bridges the gap between the outgoing C-Class and E-Class Coupé. It offers the best of both in a dynamic package that showcases the latest in digitisation. The two CLE models available in the South African market are just the beginning,” said Raine. He also announced the upcoming summer release of a classy cabriolet (convertible) version of the CLE. This strategic move aims to rejuvenate Mercedes-Benz’s market performance with fresh, exciting products as the brand has been having a tough time lately in terms of sales performance.

Design-wise, the CLE Coupé boasts a striking forward-leaning front section (“shark nose”) with a low-slung bonnet, flat LED headlights with a unique design, and a newly designed, three-dimensional radiator grille. Its side profile is accentuated by a distinctive character line that runs from the headlight to the exterior mirror and from the rear light to the door handle. The muscular rear features flowing surfaces, smooth transitions, and two-part LED lights with new contours and three-dimensional light bodies. This design embodies the perfect blend of sportiness and elegance.

Inside, the CLE Coupé dazzles with a free-standing 12.3-inch fully digital instrument display and an 11.9-inch central display in a user-friendly portrait format. The display seamlessly integrates with the glossy jet-black centre console, inclined towards the driver’s seat, creating a visually dynamic and sporty cockpit.

The CLE Coupé offers two four-cylinder engines from the current modular Mercedes-Benz engine family: the CLE 200 and the more performance-oriented CLE 300 with standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Both engines feature a second-generation integrated starter generator (ISG) for improved power delivery. The CLE 200 boasts a 2-litre petrol engine generating 150 kW and 320 Nm of torque, while the CLE 300 delivers 190 kW and 400 Nm of torque. During the launch, we drove the CLE 300, and it was clear that Mercedes-Benz is positioning itself to compete directly with the updated BMW 4 Series Coupé. This rivalry promises to be as captivating as a classic boxing match between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

The New E-Class

Following Raine’s introduction of the CLE Coupé, Alex Boavida, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Mercedes-Benz SA, presented the new E-Class, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of this iconic executive sedan. “For 75 years, Mercedes-Benz has perfected the recipe, and this latest model proves that innovation remains at our core. The new E-Class immerses you in luxury, refinement, and cutting-edge technology,” said Boavida.

The new E-Class debuts in South Africa with two engine variants: the E 200, generating 150 kW and 350 Nm of torque, and the E 220d, producing 145 kW and 440 Nm of torque. Soon, the lineup will expand to include the Mercedes-AMG E 53 Hybrid 4MATIC+, featuring a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine combined with a permanently synchronous electric motor, delivering a maximum system output of 430 kW and 750 Nm of torque.

During the launch, we tested the E 220d which revealed a ride quality that exudes true luxury — reminiscent of a smaller S-Class. The E-Class exterior showcases harmonious proportions and a distinctive “cab-backward” design, with flush-fitting door handles and a black panel-like surface connecting the radiator grille with the headlamps, reminiscent of the Mercedes-EQ models. The rear is highlighted by two-section LED lights with a unique design featuring the star motif.

Inside, the E-Class offers a luxurious experience with an optional front passenger screen, part of the MBUX Super-screen extending to the central display, similar to the Mercedes EQS and EQE models. A standout feature is the new Active Ambient Lighting with Sound Visualisation, allowing occupants to experience music with three senses: sound, feel, and visual effects. The front passenger can enjoy content on their optional screen without distracting the driver, thanks to a camera-based privacy function.

The new E-Class also comes equipped with numerous advanced driving assistance systems, including Active Distance Assist Distronic, Attention Assist, Active Brake Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Parking Package with reversing camera, and Speed Limit Assist.

The new E-Class is well-prepared to compete with its key rival, the recently launched BMW 5 Series. The competition will be fierce, and we eagerly anticipate testing the Bavarian executive sedan in the coming week to compare the two titans of the luxury automotive world.

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